Listing in Yellow Pages not Enough to Establish Personal Jurisdiction in Maryland

The fact that a Virginia doctor was listed in the Persian-American yellow pages serving the Washington metropolitan region was not sufficient to establish jurisdiction over her in a Maryland court, the Court of Special Appeals has held.

The intermediate appellate court decided that a Prince George’s County Circuit judge properly denied Behjat J. Jafarzadeh, also known as Behjat Chimeh, the opportunity to litigate a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Seddigheh Feisee because the doctor’s contacts with Maryland were insufficient to confer in personam jurisdiction under the state’s long-arm statute.

“In the case before us, [Feisee’s] contacts with the state of Maryland, minimal in nature, bore no relationship to [Jafarzadeh’s] cause of action,” Judge James R. Eyler wrote for the court.

“[Feisee] did not regularly do or solicit business, engage in any persistent course of conduct, or derive substantial revenue from goods, foods, services, or manufactured products used or consumed in the state,” the judge noted.

Feisee’s lawyer, Julia R. Arfaa, said last week’s opinion set limits that had not already been established.

“It set the bounds for personal jurisdiction in the state,” Arfaa said. “Simply because you are listed in the yellow pages doesn’t mean you’re subject to jurisdiction in the state.”

Jafarzadeh’s lawyer, Jonathan C. Silverman, was disappointed at losing the case but said he was not surprised by the outcome.

“The problem here,” Silverman said, “is that there is a doctor in Burke, Va., who did her internship at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore in the early 1970s and maintained a license to practice in Maryland, although she never [established a private practice in the state].

“She advertised in the paper and in the Persian-American yellow pages,” Silverman said, which serves the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Those advertisements, he said, would be focused on “the large Persian population in suburban Maryland, especially in Bethesda,” where Jafarzadeh lives.

“That was pretty much our case,” Silverman said, adding that he was aware of the court’s decision but had not yet studied the opinion. He said his client might ask the Court of Appeals to hear the case “just to see if there’s any hope,” noting that he thought a “recently decided case” may have extended the personal jurisdiction limit.

Feisee’s internal medicine and family practice had a large Iranian émigrée clientele built through word of mouth in the community, Arfaa said, adding that the alleged malpractice that led to the lawsuit was a “venapuncture that caused neurological damage in the plaintiff’s arm.”

The case, originally filed in July 1997 in Fairfax County, Va., and then voluntarily dismissed because it was barred by that state’s statute of limitations, was refiled in Prince George’s County Circuit Court the following March.

It was then dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, though that judgment was vacated; however, it was later dismissed once more on the same ground, giving rise to the instant appeal.

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